Friday, March 10, 2017

Fed is best.

Not a breastfed baby. 

When I was pregnant I fully intended to breastfeed. I had the books, the cover-ups, and even played out conversations I would have with indignant strangers as I breastfed my daughter in public. It never crossed my mind that breastfeeding wouldn’t be my path. I shared my story in an earlier blog. In short, I decided to pump and supplement with formula after my daughter was nearly hospitalized. At 8 months, I switched to formula 100% until she was about 13 months old.

I was prepared for the stigma of breastfeeding in public. That was what mommy blogs had told me. I was completely rocked by the amount of stigma not breastfeeding would carry. I was told by friends, family, and strangers things like, “Breast is best” or “You’re not trying hard enough” or “Breastfeeding is hard”. While these comments may be true, they were unhelpful.  

At first, I cried each time I pumped. One, it hurts and two, I felt like a failure. One day, I decided that I was feeding my daughter, I was loving her, and I had to just get over the negative and unsolicited feedback. Letting myself feel each insult wasn’t going to change our situation.  

As time went by, folks started accepting that I wasn’t breastfeeding and instead switched to things like “Aren’t you sad you’re missing out on the bonding with her?” or “Are you worried she won’t be as smart as breastfed babies?”. Blah! I have never had reason to be concerned about her development or felt a lack of bond with Hen. She is happy to see me, cries for me when she’s upset, and hugs me at least 7 times a day. If anything, I’m happy she has a bond with my husband as well.

I’ve been reading this story circulating about a family that lost their son, Landon, due to starvation. It drudges up a lot of those feelings from 19 months ago. My daughter was also starving, but presented a little differently. In addition to an abnormal loss of weight, she had a lack of wet diapers and was completely lethargic. The pediatrician told me she was so hungry that she had given up crying for food. My daughter had given up on me. Her pediatrician was the first person to tell me to supplement with formula. I actually cried leaving her office that day, because she made me feel stupid for wanting to only breastfeed, but in retrospect she just wanted my girl to be healthy. Fed is best. Right?

Not to everyone. As I read through the comments on Landon’s story, women are livid about its view on breastfeeding. Some see it as an attack or discouragement of breastfeeding. They feel that the breastfeeding movement has come so far this article will undermine it. (My interpretation: Breastfeeding is so valued even the doctor didn’t consider formula for her underfed baby.) Many of the comments were the words I was hearing when I wasn’t breastfeeding.

There is a stigma with not breastfeeding.

I imagine it’s hard to breastfeed in public and I imagine that people getting offended by it makes it even harder. If you’re a breastfeeding mama, I ask you to imagine what if you could not breastfeed? What if you had to explain to your family, friends and even strangers why you were feeding your child a bottle (of pumped milk or formula)? What if you had to explain to daycare why you were dropping off formula and not bags of breastmilk? It’s not easy. It’s hard.

The fed is best movement isn’t about diminishing breastfeeding. It’s about sharing that there are other options for feeding your child. I set out to breastfeed and was devastated when our journey took a different turn. I had one friend (not a mom at the time) say to me, “I was a formula baby. What’s the big deal? Is her doctor concerned?” I wanted to hug her a million times. She was right. It wasn’t a big deal. Her doctor wasn’t concerned. That conversation happened after 7+ months of pumping milk and supplementing with formula. We started transitioning to 100% formula the next week.  

When I read Landon’s story it broke my heart. In 2015, I was a new bleary-eyed mom on pain pills - I had no clue what was going on. The only difference is I was lucky enough to have a doctor that bluntly told me to give my child formula or she was hospitalizing her.

Let’s keep encouraging each other through sharing our stories about feeding (including breastfeeding!), but let’s also remember that not everyone is going to do things the same. As long as they are loving and caring for their child it’s okay.

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